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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 110
Sun. May 19, 2013

“Bankrobber”
The Clash

1980

“♫ What
do you
think
they’d
want to
say
to us/While
we was
being
clever?
♫”

Imagine if you’re favorite rock and roll band decided to release a single a month for one year? Always looking out for their devoted cult followers, The Clash wanted to be that band but unfortunately, in 1980, CBS Records got in the way as bassist Paul Simenon explained, “We decided that we wanted to release a single a month and the first one we put forward was Bankrobber. But the head of the record company didn’t like it. He said it sounded like David Bowie backwards, which I didn’t understand. So the UK record company wouldn’t release it. But the Dutch did and it was then imported, which made the UK company released it. But it stopped the flow of putting out a single a month.”

I believe it was less about the song and more about the record company’s fear of having to spend all that money on The Clash. Besides, a song that’s David Bowie backwards sounds bloody awesome to me. The label was also probably more hesitate about the reggae sound. They must have been waiting for more punk and less Caribbean inspired rhythms. You can thank Jamaican artist Mickey Dread for the reggae vibe on “Bankrobber.” Having been invited by The Clash to tour with the band, they quickly got Dread in the studio with them and one of the first fruits of their creative collaboration was “Bankrobber.” Explaining in Pat Gilbert’s Passion is a Fashion: The Real Story of The Clash, Dread talked about why he produced “Bankrobber” for The Clash, “When I found a white group that wanted to play reggae, I wanted to get 100 percent behind it. But they needed someone to show them how to do it. It’s like if you get a new recipe, it’s better to go to someone who’s been cooking it a while and they can show you how to measure it out properly rather than just throw the ingredients in the pot. I showed them what our approach was.” Dread later praised The Clash saying, “I really liked the guys. It was a fusion of two different cultures, in a way that was trying to benefit everyone, I respected them.”

Even though The Clash covered “Police & Thieves” thanks to Mickey Dread, they crafted their own reggae song that the head of their record company said that “Bankrobber” sounded like David Bowie backwards. I would love to one day create a song that sounds like David Bowie backwards, “Bankrobber” is not that song. “Bankrobber” is a testament to the artistry and the universal love of rebellious music. The Clash never sounded so defiant and addicting, even as a reggae band, when the record company refused to release this, “Bankrobber” was so good, it finally became the outlaw single they always dreamed of; Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simenon and Topper Headon crafted songs so memorable, “Bankrobber” demanded to be unleashed to the music world; The Clash may have made their names as politico punk rockers but nobody could shake the foundations of music like these guys did with “Bankrobber” and that was the power and legacy of The Clash.

And here’s the “Rockers Galore…U.K. Tour” which is “Bankrobber” with Mickey Dread’s vocal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvV52NStRto

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